The Vaccine Information Network (VIN) builds and tests a vaccine-safety surveillance system for currently approved COVID-19 vaccines at sites in southern Africa. The pilot will serve as a proof-of-concept that will be used to build national systems.
The Urgent Need for Data on COVID-19 Vaccine Experience
Next to vaccine access, resistance to immunization threatens our ability to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Southern Africa is at the centre of managing both challenges, yet governments and other stakeholders lack information about why some people overcome vaccine hesitancy and others do not. The evidence (e.g., Wellcome Trust Effective Ways) suggests that the best way increase vaccinations is not to rebut misinformation, but to deliver health communications that celebrate the largely positive attitudes people have about vaccination. Amplifying positive messages about vaccine reinforces active participation in vaccination programs as a community norm. The problem is that governments lack critical information about people’s attitudes and experiences regarding vaccinations.
The Vaccine Information Network’s (VIN) purpose is to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates by (1) establishing how and why minds are changed and (2) using that information to frame confidence-building messages communicated by trusted community leaders (influencers) in partnership with public health authorities.
Our Rapid Assessment
With support from Schmidt Futures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Aspen Pharmacare, VIN is currently conducting a three-phase rapid assessment in South Africa and Zimbabwe. In each country, the phases are as follows:
- Formative Qualitative Research: Through focus group discussions with unvaccinated and vaccinated people, we seek to understand the nature and drivers of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and collect positive narratives about COVID-19 vaccines.
- Prospective Cohort Study of Vaccine Recipients: We will recruit and interview a cohort of 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine recipients three times over 6 weeks to understand the motivations, barriers, safety perceptions, side effects, and other experiences of COVID-19 vaccination.
- Development of Strategic Communication Framework: Drawing on these qualitative and quantitative data, we will then develop a strategic communications framework to encourage vaccination and co-design messages to promote vaccinations with influencers (e.g., religious leaders, community leaders, media, journalists).
Throughout the rapid assessment, we partner closely with governments and civil society to eliminate redundancy and maximize our contributions.
The VIN is a collaboration among:
- Columbia University Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
- Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Program in Vaccine Education
- The University of Witwatersrand (South Africa)
- Charles River Medical Group (Zimbabwe)
- RTI International
We gratefully acknowledge support from Schmidt Futures, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Aspen Pharmacare.